Eyes Front!

Salute at Ground Zero

Photo: CNN

Following the Daily News report of schoolchildren’s bad behavior at the 9/11 Memorial, the mother of 26-year-old victim Matthew Horning wrote in to the paper to connect the dots.

“The memorial was designed without any remnants of the destruction, so visitors never really see the horror of what happened on the site. There is no signage telling visitors what occured on the site or the significance of the names around the waterfalls. There is not even an American flag flown, which might indicate that something of national importance happened there. As for using the place as a garbage dump, please remember that human remains of the victims were taken to an actual garbage dump, Fresh Kills, and left there.”

It seems that, as with so much else at Ground Zero, even when we can see what is wrong, we feel powerless to make it right. That makes us all guilty of looking away.

New York Daily News

Those who run the 9/11 memorial share the blame for vile behavior of schoolkids

New York Daily News

Readers sound off on disrespect for Ground Zero…

New York Post (AP)

Some 9/11 families accuse NY, NJ govs of betrayal

New York Observer

Neither Sphere Nor There: Port Authority Wants Sculpture, Just Not Sure Where

2012-06-25T15:08:57+00:00 June 25th, 2012|Vol. One, No. 17 —|

We Come Back Stronger!

The stand-off between the Port Authority and the 9/11 Museum Mayor is getting dramatic. As a New York Post editorial observed: “The governors also insist that the PA maintain day-to-day control over the entire WTC site.” It really is a battle of titans. The rapport between the two Governors, as reported in the “Capital Tonight” column, is no surprise. A string of flawed and compliant governors was replaced with two men who govern by the force of their characters — while the Mayor imposes his will by the force of his bank account. His my-way-or-the-highway approach has run into one BIG roadblock.

Rise Above Billboard on the L.I Expressway September, 2011.

Photo: Karen Simon | www.simondoes.com

The New York Times | “Cuomo and Christie Request Federal Financing for Sept. 11 Museum

NY Executive Chamber | “Governors Cuomo and Christie Request Financial Support from the U.S. National Park Service

The Wall Street Journal | “Governors Ask for Federal Help on 9-11 Memorial

Capital Tonight | “Cuomo And Christie Team Up On Sept. 11 Memorial

The New York Post | “A more modest museum

The New York Daily News| “Obama at WTC: President visits World Trade Center to review rebuilding, sign steel

The Record | “Obama joins NJ, NY leaders to reflect on progress at WTC site

Does the President really believe we have come back stronger?

The New York Daily News | “Port Authority continues its extortion of WTC museum

It is disturbing to see how lacking in balance the Daily News editorial writers are when it comes to the 9/11 Museum controversy. The mayor took over at the foundation in 2006 to control costs when the tab had reached a billion. It is now easily 30% higher. At the end of 2010, an executive was given a $300,000 severance package. Last week’s tatement by Governor Cuomo and statements by the “9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims” showed that there are sound reasons to oppose the current museum regime, but the Daily News takes no notice. After all, it’s just money. Their unwavering support must make the mayor happy, but it is impossible to take such a hyper-partisan position seriously.

The New York Times | “1 World Trade Center Is a Growing Presence, and a Changed One

As is so often the case, the public’s comments show that people are pretty good at seeing through the hype.

The Village Voice | “9/11 Family Group Wants National Park Service to Take Over WTC Memorial

CBS New York | “911 Families Call For Feds To Take Over Memorial, Museum

Following on their statement in support of Governor Cuomo’s position last week, rejecting what would amount to a public bail-out of the 9/11 Memorial, a core group of of 9/11 families ratcheted up their opposition to the management of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation. The full text of the press release that was sent out yesterday reads:

9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims Renews Call for National Park Service
to Administer and Operate 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero

“In a June 9th, 2012 New York Times article (“In Latest Phase of Ground Zero Building Dispute, a New Call for Oversight” by Charles V. Bagli) the disastrous financial condition of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum was highlighted. In light of this information, 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims reiterates our call for the National Parks Service to assume complete control of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. (We first issued this request February 3, 2012). The National Park Service operates numerous national memorials throughout the US, including the Shanksville, PA Flight 93 Memorial. It is the only federal organization which can bring transparency, effective management, and fiscal responsibility to “America’s Memorial” which has developed into a memorial-industrial complex characterized by gross mismanagement, bloated salaries, and out- of- control spending.

“The dysfunctional Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was reportedly owed $300 million from the private 9/11 memorial museum foundation, was able to receive only a “commitment in which the foundation agreed to pay the Port Authority roughly $50 million over many years.” We must ask: “What happened to the remaining $250 million? Why are toll payers and the public being expected to pick up the tab for the cost overruns by a private foundation? If the 9/11 memorial museum foundation is so adept at fundraising, why can’t they pay their bills on time and in full? Why didn’t they have the foresight to see that a $1.3 billion enterprise is not appropriate, now or ever?

“Shortly after the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this past year, bills were introduced into the US Senate and House of Representatives to provide an annual $20 million payout to the private foundation representing the 9/11 Memorial and Museum – with no strings attached! These Congressional bills would allow the 9/11 foundation (with its incredibly highly paid staff & golden parachute policy) to continue to run the memorial and museum, and the federal government & taxpayers would essentially be responsible for the mortgage into future decades. What’s wrong with this picture?

“Shortly after the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this past year, bills were introduced into the US Senate and House of Representatives to provide an annual $20 million payout to the private foundation representing the 9/11 Memorial and Museum – with no strings attached! These Congressional bills would allow the 9/11 foundation (with its incredibly highly paid staff & golden parachute policy) to continue to run the memorial and museum, and the federal government & taxpayers would essentially be responsible for the mortgage into future decades. What’s wrong with this picture?

“Many 9/11 families are opposed to the current version of this bill – they do not feel the federal government should pay for an enormously expensive memorial and museum in which the federal government – as well as the families of the victims – had virtually no role in the burgeoning $1.3 billion design and construction. Taking ownership of the memorial & museum and annually funding a large portion of its annual $60 million annual operating costs – with no controls whatsoever – will be a permanent albatross around the neck of the American taxpayer unless the highly respected and experienced stewardship of the National Parks Service is mandated.

“If the 9/11 Memorial is supposed to be a “National Memorial” which deserves federal funding, then it is obligated to operate with fiscal responsibility and honor. It should be given the respect, patriotism, budgetary responsibility and time-honored stewardship of the National Park Service. The lives and deaths of nearly 3,000 people, and the American public who honor them deserve nothing less.”

2012-06-11T14:55:26+00:00 June 11th, 2012|Vol. One, No. 15 —|

Cuomo’s Slam Dunk

Actually, it was a week of slam dunks, following a week where the Port Authority was portrayed as the heavy in the dispute that has set back the opening of the 9/11 Museum. It began with Governor Cuomo bluntly acknowledging that “a tremendous amount of money” has been “wasted” in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site — and that “the toll-payer is not an endless, bottomless well for government to dip into to cure their incompetence.”

Night at the Memorial and Museum

The New York Daily News | “No toll hike to pay for ‘incompetence’ and wasted money…

Staten Island Advance | “Cuomo fury at inept Port Authority…

The Washington Post | “Deal near on stalled Sept. 11 museum at World Trade Center site

NJ.com–AP | “Families of 9/11 victims blast amount of money wasted…

The Governor was addressing the stalemate with the 9/11 Memorial Foundation, headed by Mayor Bloomberg. Nevertheless, by the following day, Gov. Cuomo’s choice to head the Port Authority, Executive Director Pat Foye made sure to go on the record saying, “No bridge and tunnel tolls are allocated to the site. Funding for the World Trade Center comes from third-party sources including federal grants and insurance proceeds and Port Authority resources.”

Cuomo’s remarks were viewed as a “breath of fresh air” but they bolstered the case that the AAA is bringing against the Port Authority, challenging last summer’s exorbitant toll hikes. The PA’s position is that none of the toll hikes are going to the WTC because the Interstate Transportation Network (ITN) operates at a deficit. But everyone understands that the Port Authority would be in a position to divert other resources to the ITN, as they historically have done, if it were not pouring billions of dollars into the site. Whether the PA’s funny numbers will work in the District Court lawsuit is being determined in the discovery process that has been going forward. But, State Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) suggested that Cuomo’s comments “could give a court the ammunition it needs to overturn these toll hikes.”

Port Authority officials can insist until they are blue in the face that no toll money is going to build the World Trade Center, but if the PA were not carrying the load for Larry Silverstein and being drained by the Memorial there would be no toll controversy today. Since the Port Authority would be in a full-bore crisis of confidence if the tolls are rolled back, the Museum stand-off is one more indication of how distressed the project really is. But the day after the Associated Press was quoting both sides as saying that they are “close to an agreement to resume construction” the language suggests otherwise. The AP reported that Mayor Bloomberg offered no specifics on a completion date or on the amount of money still in question, but quoted him as saying, “As long as we’re going in the right direction and doing it together, this memorial and museum is going to get done.”

The piece then went on to apply the not-so-subtle pressure of the week before by adding that “family members of those killed in the 2001 attacks have been upset over the delays at the ground zero museum.” But the next day, the AP reported that “9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims” commended the governor Wednesday for saying “a tremendous amount of money” has been “wasted” at the site. Their full press release reads as follows:

“9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims commends Governor Andrew Cuomo for the strong stand he has taken re the out of control spending at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (New York Daily News, 6/4/12.) As WTC family members, we as well as the public, have been held hostage by the private 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s irresponsibility, unaccountability and uncontrolled spending of public dollars.

“Gov. Cuomo has stated that ‘a tremendous amount of money’ has been ‘wasted’ in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. We are in total agreement. The vast majority of WTC family members — including Parents & Families of Firefighters — never asked for the world’s most expensive memorial and museum, now estimated at a staggering $1.3 billion. Families would have been thankful for a simple, dignified, aboveground monument to the lives and deaths of 9/11 Victims. Our families had no role in the selection of this fiscally irresponsible project and take no responsibility for it.

“We have long held that the Port Authority of New and New Jersey — the builders of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum — is a dysfunctional organization. The Port Authority should not hand over any additional funding to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum operators. We agree with the Governor’s statement that: ‘the toll-payer is not an endless, bottomless well for government to dip into to cure their incompetence.’

“We believe that asking commuters to pony up even more toll money to finance this memorial-industrial complex is unacceptable. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum managers decided that money was no object from day one. They now have the “world class” distinction they so desired: the world’s most expensive memorial-museum to build and operate. They do not deserve a bailout from the public taxpayers. We thank Gov. Cuomo for his outstanding leadership in this most important issue.”

That is an important statement, but only a few sentences were repeated in the AP report. Another disturbing fact was the reference to “some” family members. Why do they always seem to quote “some” family members, when the position is challenging the official agenda, but “9/11 family members” when they are supporting the status quo?

Chief Riches and the others who signed the statement are dedicated spokespeople who may arguably be representative of the vast majority of family members on most issues, if they were ever put in touch with each other. But the Mayor and the Museum have done their best to keep them apart, citing privacy issues, when control issues is more like it.

This week’s news underscores how improper last Sunday’s Daily News editorial was. The public interest is well-served by the Governors’ resistance to being soaked by the 9/11 Memorial/Museum. Memorial officials have taken the public’s support for a fitting memorial to be a blank check. The family members who spoke out performed a public service.

The Asbury Park Press | “Clock ticks for Port Authority’s records

Republicans may be right when they say that the New Jersey Assembly is out to embarrass the Governor over his handling of the notorious toll hikes, but the Port Authority has been begging for a correction and it seems likely that it is going to get one. The extensive list of documents that the Assembly’s Transportation Committee requested in a four-page letter to the executive Director of the Port Authority includes emails and minutes of closed-door executive session meetings.

Chairman John Wisniewski said that it shouldn’t take more than 30 days to collect and transmit the records. “They could do it in a week.” But if the documents are not received within thirty days, they will be subpoenaed. That’s a reverberating slam dunk.

The New York Times | “In Latest Phase of Ground Zero Building Dispute, a New Call for Oversight

Could the whole problem be that officials have confused the word “oversight” for “overlook?” That would explain, among other signs of insanity, how the Museum (pictured within) that looks like it is tipping over was actually designed to look like that. They should take a poll of how many visitors to the site get vertigo when looking at it.

The New York Observer | “Just How Crazy Will New York’s Tallest New Building Be?

The corollary question is “just how crazy is it that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will cost more (currently $1.3 billion) than New York’s tallest new building” — the one that will have a roof-height almost 30 feet higher than the Freedom Tower? (Another good question is how crazy is it that the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. cost $200 million…?)

The New York Daily News | “Readers sound off on the 9/11 museum…

It may not be a full-fledged slam dunk, but the fact that a fourth week has come and gone since the Port Authority announced that they had found an interim home for The Sphere and would announce details the following week is a litmus stick. Officials of the pre-toll hikes Port Authority would never embarrass themselves this way.

2012-06-04T14:51:25+00:00 June 4th, 2012|Vol. One, No. 14 —|